Greater City Providence

Branding New England


Scott Kirsner at his Innovation Economy blog asks us to do a test.

Here’s a quick city-association game for you.

When I say Hollywood, what industry comes to mind?

If I say Silicon Valley, could you name a couple companies based there?

Nashville conjures up country music chords, and Seattle connotes e-commerce, coffee roasting, and monopolistic makers of operating systems.

So here’s an experiment to try the next time you meet someone at a party in San Francisco, or sit next to a non-New Englander on a flight from O’Hare.

Ask them what their associations are when you say “New England” or “Massachusetts.”

I think you’ll be surprised how often you get responses like “the Boston Tea Party,” “the Revolution,” “covered bridges,” “Ben & Jerry’s,” “the Red Sox,” “history,” or “Kerry, Kennedy and Dukakis.”

Not very current of forward thinking is it? Kirsner argues, while those of us who live here know that we’ve gotten a few things done in these parts since one if by land two if by sea, we haven’t been very good at letting the rest of the world know what we’ve been up to.

I think that our great opportunity for 2009, as the world figures out how to emerge from its fiscal funk, is to come up with a strategy for telling our story. This is a hotbed of innovation, and we need the smartest people everywhere to know that. The smartest students already come here to get educated, but we need the smartest entrepreneurs to come here to set up shop; the smartest investors to set up branch offices; and the smartest big-company execs to establish manufacturing, R&D, or sales and marketing presences.

For whatever reason, we as a region, seem to never be able to get it together to think and act regionally. To take advantage of our collective strength (imagine the power of a region with 12 Senators in DC). And Kirsner doesn’t suggest we wait for the 6 governments to act on this. Thinkers outside of government in the 6 state region need to work together using current technology to market themselves. Maybe the states will jump on board after the heavy lifting is done.

What should we be doing to strengthen our region, work together, and market ourselves to the rest of the country and world?

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.

1 comment

  • Interesting little idea, but in my experience people don’t just misunderstand New England, they actually want to ignore it. I’m the biggest New England pusher on the planet, I want nothing more than for everyone to come see for themselves what they’re missing, but I have yet to get a single friend from another region to come and visit.

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